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  • Writer's pictureChef Justen

Year Zero

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

When I started the journey of launching Just Enjoy, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was fresh out of school and full of ideas. My passion for food and cooking was at a high and I wanted to bring that right into the homes of people in my community. I imagined how I would create custom menus for families and busy professionals, then show up on-demand to fill their fridge with quality meals, but more importantly give them the gift of time. I would earn money doing what I loved and I would be content for years to come..

My vision was ambitious, if admittedly a bit vague. I launched April 1, 2018 officially. The first four seasons of business were full of learning, and blew by incredibly fast. I was privileged to participate in several community events, cook in many beautiful homes, meet interesting families visiting on vacation, and gain relationships to expand my local network. Clientele was diverse, feedback was good, word of mouth was working, and I was grateful. Things weren’t booming but they were clicking into place and it literally felt like a dream most of the time.

One thing had changed though.

Shortly after I started working with clients, we decided to adopt a plant-based diet at home. We had done “Meatless Monday” for a while and had a few weeks of pescatarian menus here and there, but had never really considered a full transition. Things were catching my attention about it more and more though, and after speaking with some people firsthand, I thought it might be a good time to give it a try. It wasn’t intended to be anything permanent..honestly, more of an experiment and a cooking challenge.

I guess the thing about purpose is that it tugs at you until you notice it.

I fell in LOVE with vegan cooking! I was looking at food in different ways and feeling better about what I was preparing and eating. I was using ingredients and techniques I’d never tried and some I’d never even heard of. I got renewed inspiration and felt more creative in the kitchen. Not to mention, we felt great! I learned more and more about plant-based living and we made a pretty strong commitment to it as a household.

But the business?

What about the personal chef service? What about the personalized menus for the my clients (real and anticipated)? I was running up against a conflict more and more often. Not considering the fact that I still need to taste food before I serve it, there was the issue of an internal dilemma. I was now serving food that I was no longer 100% proud of. I felt that I was encouraging people to eat things that I wouldn’t serve my own family without regard for their health and wellness as well as other reasons. I was starting to feel a little icky about accepting money for something I didn’t stand behind and it was keeping me up at night. Initially I felt selfish. In order to preserve my growing business and earn income was I willing to compromise and feed someone something I feel might be a carcinogen? I then realized that what I thought was selfish was actually going to be a disservice to myself in the long run. What toll in quality of life would I pay in order to make revenue? If I wanted to collect a check to serve food I didn’t agree with..I could work at someone’s restaurant, right? I decided to be an owner and not an employee, so that I could have lifestyle by design vs default. This doesn’t mean I did it so that I can sleep in. It means I have control and I don’t need to ask permission before making the decisions that I feel are right for me.

So I’m starting over.

I polled some chef friends, met with some medical professionals, and, most importantly, consulted with my bride-to-be. Opinions varied for sure. I had a lot of interesting insights to weigh, and ultimately I am confident in my decision. This summer I intend to transition Just Enjoy to an exclusively plant-based service. It is a big step, and there is a lot of work that will go into this, but I know it will be so worth it. I am excited to share more as the time comes. I am beyond grateful for all the blessings and experience that I received over the past 12 months, and I consider it a launching pad for many years of success to come!

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